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The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self

The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self

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The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self

4.5/5 (20 ratings)
219 pages
4 hours
May 4, 2010


In this groundbreaking exploration, three New York Times bestselling authors—Debbie Ford (The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Why Good People Do Bad Things), Marianne Williamson (The Age of Miracles, A Return to Love), and Deepak Chopra (Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment)—deliver a comprehensive and practical guide to harnessing the power of our dark side.
May 4, 2010

About the author

Deepak Chopra, MD, has gained worldwide acclaim as a teacher and writer in fields as diverse as mind-body medicine, Ayurveda, the nature of God, and the path to success. Time magazine called him one of the 100 icons of the twentieth century, “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” The author of more than sixty-four books translated into over eighty-five languages, including nineteen New York Times bestsellers, Dr. Chopra has sold more than twenty million copies of his books worldwide. He is the founder of the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California.

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The Shadow Effect - Deepak Chopra



The conflict between who we are and who we want to be is at the core of the human struggle. Duality, in fact, lies at the very center of the human experience. Life and death, good and evil, hope and resignation coexist in every person and exert their force in every facet of our lives. If we know courage, it is because we have also experienced fear; if we can recognize honesty, it is because we have encountered deceit. And yet most of us deny or ignore our dualistic nature.

If we are living under the assumption that we are only one way or another, inside a limited spectrum of human qualities, then we would have to question why more of us aren’t wholly satisfied with our lives right now. Why do we have access to so much wisdom yet fail to have the strength and courage to act upon our good intentions by making powerful choices? And most important, why do we continue to act out in ways that go against our value system and all that we stand for? We will assert that it is because of our unexamined life, our darker self, our shadow self where our unclaimed power lies hidden. It is here, in this least likely place, that we will find the key to unlock our strength, our happiness, and our ability to live out our dreams.

We have been conditioned to fear the shadow side of life and the shadow side of ourselves. When we catch ourselves thinking a dark thought or acting out in a behavior that we feel is unacceptable, we run, just like a groundhog, back into our hole and hide, hoping, praying, it will disappear before we venture out again. Why do we do this? Because we are afraid that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to escape from this part of ourselves. And although ignoring or repressing our dark side is the norm, the sobering truth is that running from the shadow only intensifies its power. Denying it only leads to more pain, suffering, regret, and resignation. If we fail to take responsibility and extract the wisdom that has been hidden beneath the surface of our conscious minds, the shadow will take charge, and instead of us being able to have control over it, the shadow winds up having control over us, triggering the shadow effect. Our dark side then starts making our decisions for us, stripping us of our right to make conscious choices whether it’s what food we will eat, how much money we will spend, or what addiction we will succumb to. Our shadow incites us to act out in ways we never imagined we could and to waste our vital energy on bad habits and repetitive behaviors. Our shadow keeps us from full self-expression, from speaking our truth, and from living an authentic life. It is only by embracing our duality that we free ourselves of the behaviors that can potentially bring us down. If we don’t acknowledge all of who we are, we are guaranteed to be blindsided by the shadow effect.

The shadow effect is everywhere. Evidence of its pervasiveness can be seen in every aspect of our lives. We read about it online. We watch it on the nightly news, and we can see it in our friends, our family, and strangers on the street. And perhaps most significant, we can recognize it in our thoughts, see it in our behaviors, and feel it in our interactions with others. We worry that shining a light on this darkness will cause us to feel great shame or, even worse, to act out our worst nightmare. We become scared of what we will find if we look inside ourselves, so instead we bury our heads and refuse to face our shadow sides.

But this book reveals a new truth—shared from three life-changing perspectives—that the opposite of what we fear we will experience is what actually occurs. Instead of shame, we feel compassion. Instead of embarrassment, we gain courage. Instead of limitation, we experience freedom. If left unopened, the shadow is a Pandora’s box filled with secrets that we fear will destroy everything we love and care about. But if we open the box, we discover that what’s inside has the power to radically and positively alter our lives. Then we will step out of the illusion that our darkness will overtake us and instead we will see the world in a new light. The compassion we discover for ourselves will ignite our confidence and courage as we open our hearts to those around us. The power we unearth will help us tackle the fear that has been holding us back and will urge us to move powerfully toward our highest potential. Far from frightening, embracing the shadow allows us to be whole, to be real, to take back our power, to unleash our passion, and to realize our dreams.

This book was born out of a desire to illuminate the many life-altering gifts of the shadow. In the following pages, each of us will approach the subject from our own unique perspective as teachers. Our intention is to provide a comprehensive, multi-lens understanding of how the shadow was born within us, how it functions in our lives, and most important, what we can do to discover the gifts of our true nature. We promise that after reading this book you will never think of your shadow self in the same way again.

In Part I, Deepak Chopra gives us a comprehensive overview of our dualistic nature and offers a prescription to return us to wholeness. A mind/body pioneer, Chopra has transformed millions of lives with his teachings. His holistic approach to the divisive nature of the shadow is both grounding and illuminating.

In Part II, I draw upon nearly fifteen years of teaching and leading The Shadow Process around the world to offer an accessible yet in-depth examination of the birth of the shadow, the role of the shadow in our everyday lives, and how we can reclaim the power and brilliance of our authentic nature.

In Part III, Marianne Williamson touches our hearts and minds with a provocative exploration of the connection between the shadow and the soul. A renowned international spiritual teacher, Marianne takes our hand and guides us through the bumpy terrain of the battle between love and fear.

Each of us comes with years of experience and a sincere hope that we can illuminate the shadow once and for all. For if we do not counter the force of the shadow and integrate its wisdom, it has the potential to continue to wreak havoc on our lives and our world. When we fail to admit to our vulnerabilities and recognize our bad behaviors, we will inevitably sabotage ourselves when we are on the verge of some personal or professional breakthrough. Then the shadow wins. When we act out of disproportionate anger in speaking to our children, the shadow wins. When we deceive our loved ones, the shadow wins. When we refuse to accept our true nature, the shadow wins. If we do not bring the light of our highest self to the darkness of our human impulses, the shadow wins. Until we accept all of who we are, the shadow effect will have the power to impede our happiness. If left unacknowledged, the shadow will stop us from being whole, prevent us from achieving our best-laid plans, and leave us living half a life. It is our hope in writing this book that we will bring the shadow into the light. There has never been a better time to create a new lexicon, to illuminate the shadow, and to finally understand what’s been so difficult to see and hard to explain.

Shadow work, as described in this book, is more than a psychological process or an intellectual banter. It is a prescriptive solution to problems unsolved. It is a life-altering journey that goes beyond any psychological theory because it deems the dark side as a human issue, a spiritual issue that all of us must resolve in this lifetime if we are to live a fully self-expressed life. We will finally understand why we are no better and no worse than anyone else regardless of our color, our background, our sexual orientation, our genetic makeup, or our past. There is no one in the world who doesn’t have a shadow, and when taken seriously and understood, the shadow can birth a new reality that will alter the way we feel about ourselves, the way we parent our children, the way we treat our partners, the way we interact with our community members, and the way we engage with other nations.

I believe that the shadow is one of the greatest gifts available to us. Carl Jung called it a sparring partner it is the opponent within us that exposes our flaws and sharpens our skills. It is the teacher, the trainer, and the guide that supports us in uncovering our true magnificence. The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered but a fertile field to be cultivated. When we dig our hands into its rich soil, we will discover the potent seeds of the people we most desire to be. It is our sincere hope that you take this journey, for we know what’s waiting inside.

Debbie Ford


The Shadow


Once people hear about the shadow, the dark side of human nature, almost no one denies that it exists. Every life has been touched by anger and fear. The evening news exposes human nature at its worst, week after week, without letup. If we are honest with ourselves, dark impulses are free to roam our minds at will, and the price we pay for being a good person—something we all aspire to—is that the bad person who might ruin everything must be kept under wraps.

Having a shadow side seems to call for some kind of intervention, maybe therapy or a pill, maybe a trip to the confessional or a midnight soul confrontation. As soon as people acknowledge that they have it, they want to be rid of it. There are many aspects of life in which a can-do, let’s-fix-it attitude works. Unfortunately, the shadow isn’t one of them. The reason that the shadow hasn’t been fixed for thousands of years—the whole time that human beings have been conscious of their dark side—is totally mysterious. It only makes sense to unravel the mystery before asking how to deal with it. Therefore, I’ve divided Part I into three sections, in which I fall back on a physician’s instinct to find a diagnosis, offer a cure, and then honestly tell patients their prognosis for the future:

The Fog of Illusion

The Way Out

A New Reality, a New Power

The first section (the diagnosis) describes how the shadow came to be. I differ from some in believing that the shadow is a human creation, not a cosmic force or a universal curse. The second section (the cure) deals with how you can diminish the shadow’s hidden power over you in everyday life. The third section (the prognosis) unfolds a future in which the shadow has been dismantled, not only for certain individuals, but for all of us. Together we created the shadow that now haunts us. Despite our fear and reluctance to face this fact, it turns out to be the key to transformation. If you and I weren’t part of the problem, we would have no hope of being part of the solution.


If you cannot see your own shadow, you must go in search of it. The shadow hides in shame in the dark alleys, secret passages, and ghost-filled attics of your consciousness. To have a shadow is not to be flawed, but to be complete. That’s a hard truth to confront. (Haven’t you tried to tell people a candid truth about themselves, only to have them snap back, Don’t psychoanalyze me, or something of the sort? The unconscious realm feels as dangerous as the depths of the ocean; both are dark and full of unseen monsters.) We are all living with the wreckage of failed ideals that once seemed like perfect solutions. Each solution matches a picture of what the dark side is all about.

If you think that shadow aspects like fear, anger, anxiety, and violence are the result of demonic possession, the solution is to purify the afflicted person. Demons can be driven out with rituals, cleansing of the body, fasting, and grueling austerities. This is not a primitive notion. Millions of modern people hold fast to it. You can’t pass a newsstand without seeing a glossy magazine that promises a new you through some kind of purification, whether it’s a diet that will overcome your craving for bad foods or a checklist for finding the right spouse by avoiding the wrong types of people. Clean up your act is the modern version of purifying from demons.

Akin to this explanation is the notion that cosmic evil has been loosed in the world. If this is your explanation for the shadow, the natural solution is religion. Religion aligns you with cosmic good in its battle against cosmic evil. For millions of people this war is very real. It extends to every aspect of their lives, from sexual temptation to abortion, the rise of godless atheism, and the decline of patriotism. The Devil creates every form of human suffering and wrong-doing. Only God (or the gods) has the power to defeat Satan and redeem us from sin. Yet it’s hard to settle whether religion defeats the shadow or actually makes it stronger by arousing strong feelings of sinfulness and guilt, shame and fear about the tortures of a hellish hereafter.

Since we pride ourselves on living in an age when superstition no longer rules our lives, these time-honored explanations of the dark side are no longer the only choices. People can turn their backs on cosmic evil and take personal responsibility. The dark side has been updated as sickness, a branch of mental health. Along this path lies a huge array of treatments. Addicts are sent into recovery programs. The anxious and depressed are sent to psychiatrists. Out-of-control rage-aholics wind up in anger-management classes after ramming a car on the freeway when they can’t control themselves.

Given all these explanations, each of which leads to a definite solution, why is the shadow undefeated?

This may seem like a gloomy prospect, but in fact the first step toward dealing with the shadow is to acknowledge its power. Human nature includes a self-destructive side. When Swiss psychologist Carl Jung posited the archetype of the shadow, he said that it creates a fog of illusion that surrounds the self. Trapped in this fog, we evade our own darkness, and thus we give the shadow more and more power over us. It’s no secret that the Jungian approach to archetypes quickly turns very intellectual and complicated. But the stubborn power of the shadow isn’t complex at all. I flicked on the television while taking a break from writing this paragraph. The famous billionaire Warren Buffett was being interviewed about booms and busts in the economic cycle.

Do you think there will be another bubble leading to a huge recession? the interviewer asked.

I can guarantee it, Buffett replied.

The interviewer shook his head. Why can’t we learn the lessons of the last recession? Look where greed has gotten us.

Buffett gave a small mysterious smile. "Greed is fun for a while.

People can’t resist it. However far human beings have come, we haven’t grown emotionally at all. We remain the same."

In capsule form, there’s the shadow and the problems it poses. In the fog of illusion, we don’t see our worst impulses as self-destructive. They’re irresistible, even fun. Hence the enormous popularity of revenge dramas as entertainment, whether in Shakespeare’s theater or a spaghetti Western on the silver screen. What could be better than unleashing all our hidden rage, demolishing the enemy, and walking tall in triumph? The shadow exerts its power by making the darkness seem like the light.

The world’s wisdom traditions have spent most of their energy and thought meeting the same primal dilemmas. Creation has a dark side. Destruction is inherent in nature. Death interrupts life. Decay saps vitality. Evil is attractive. No wonder the fog of illusion eventually seems like a nice place to be. If you face reality head-on, the dark side is too overwhelming to bear. Yet there is a counterforce that has steadily—and successfully—overcome the dark side. The wreckage of failed solutions keeps us from seeing it. The fog of illusion insulates us from it. You would never guess, dialing past the disasters and horrors of nightly television, that human beings have always had the power to find peace, exaltation, and freedom from darkness.

The secret lies in the word consciousness. When people hear this, a look of disappointment crosses their faces. Consciousness is old hat. We’ve heard about consciousness-raising ever since feminism appeared, along with other varieties of liberation. Higher consciousness is held out as a promise by countless spiritual movements. You might even be tempted to throw consciousness onto the pile of wrecked ideals, because in the face of sincere attempts to raise our consciousness, the shadow plagues the world with war, crime, and violence, just as it plagues individual lives with pain and fear.

We have come to a crossroads. Either consciousness belongs with the other false answers, or it hasn’t been tried in the right way. I’d like to suggest that the latter is true. Higher consciousness is the answer—the only lasting answer—to the dark side of human nature. It’s not the answer that’s at fault here—it’s the application. There are countless paths to healing the soul, just as there

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  • (4/5)
    I learned a lot from this book.
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    1 person found this helpful

    Spiritually uplifting. A must read for anyone fighting their own demons.

    1 person found this helpful